Deter or despair?

Some parents are so convinced by the value of education that they pay for private tuition. But as the Government has belatedly realised, not every parent shares its convictions about education. So, with the prison population at record levels, the Home Office is apparently considering jailing parents of truants at weekends.

This, and proposals to dock child benefits, smacks of desperation. It will be a useful deterrent for some - but how many unwilling children will be corralled back into classes they loathed, still learning nothing?

Feckless parents are only part of the problem. OFSTED says the early secondary years can turn pupils off forever. Some youngsters will never see the point of a wholly academic curriculum: schools must have the freedom to accommodate them. And ministerial quips about bargepole schools do not help. If we are going to be tough on truancy, let's be tough on its causes, too.

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